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July 12, 1973 - Image 4

Resource type:
Michigan Daily, 1973-07-12

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Sasnt' "r Lifres of

Pot law could return after drive
for initiative-referendum system

Edited and managed by students at the 'FE REPEAL of the $5 mari-
University of Michigan juana fine need not be a
catalyst for despair. Rather, it
Told snark an organizing drive
Thursday, July 12, 1973 News Phane: 764-0552 whose implications go far beyond
"rass. We need not wait until the
"'it Council majority changes for
relief. Remedy may exist by ei-
E thics c e irs ther changing the city ordinance or
the City Charter itself through a
direct vote of the people.
We are the only city of cam-
com parable size in the state that does
not have the old populist reforms
of initiative and referendum (I-R).
S dcsniW. Co .Cru Co t These mechanisms "give" the peo-
C~HE decision in Wayne County Circuit Court limiting rle the right to enact and repeal
psychosuryery finally lays a framework to protect ordinances by popular vote.
mentally ill inmates from becoming guinea pigs for an The wav to bring about I-R is
uncertain and primitive science. through a City Charter amend-
The welcome ruling by a special three judge panel went, throgh one of two methodo.
prohibits experimental psychosurgery on persons con- oose an amendment. If it meets
fined against their will in state institutions even when with the Governor's approval on
such a person's consent is formally obtained. a nmber of criteria, it is placed
However, the opinion by the court does leave open before the voters at the next regu-
the performance of psychosurgery once the procedure I-c election or at a snecial election
has advanced to a level where its benefits clearly out- tnhroves, eight votes can otill
weigh the risks. The judges said that this is not the case lace the original proposal on the
at present. ballot.
THE OTHER method requires pe-
I7SYCHOSURGERY is a drastic procedure which re- tition circulation. 3500 registered
moves certain portions of the brain of a mentally voters most sign within 30 days, at
ill person when that person does not respond to conven- eiot 901 dayo before the election,
tional treatment. 400to 600 Americans annually have which must come in either April
such srgery.or November, 1974 (unleos 14,1111
sion for a special hurry-up elec-
Some authorities have claimed that the unavail- lion). Neither the Council nor the
ability of hospital and prison inmates would seriously Governor may block a vote, al-
limit research. But the court said that "other avenues of thoosh the courts may still do so
research" for psychosurgery must be pursued. if the nronosal is unconstitutional
rr in iolation of a state statute.
THE ethics of human experimentation have been a topic If the voters nass the I-R amend-
of debate since the Nuremburg war crime trials after '"ent, then they may changethe
ordinance at the next election.
World War II. At that time, the jurors ruled that, among Sin'e students will leave for the
other criteria. the experimentation on humans must not sinmer, it would not be wise to
occur until other non-human sources have been ex- netition for this vote until t h e
hausted, in other words, only as a last resort. No-ember. 1974 election!
We may be able to act stoner.
THE modern scientists evade this comparison by insist- I-stead of a oopolar vote on a city
ing on approval of the subiect prior to the experi- ardlinance, why not merely put
ment, in this ease nschasurnerv. But, the position of the niriioana and rent control in the
subjects, as institutional inmates, belies the sufficiency city Charter,
of this approval. TItME IS THE main advantage.
Done laws coold he changed by
Firstly, the nrocedtre in exneriments like psycho- -Aril (or earlier ifbwe got 14,000
surgery is so complex that it is improbable that it can signatures for a special election),
be comprehended by a layman. Thus, the patient is at a instead of waiting. Time is import-
serious disadvantage in dealing with those asking his ant, when you think of the hund-
permission. reds of people threatened w it h
jail or excessive fines, or another
BUT a more important consideration, is that the inmate, year of uncontrolled rents.
because he is in a prison or mental institution, is Getting these issues on the April
under pressure to accede to the experiment. ballot will help deal with the out-
The inmate may see the experiment as a means to standing problem of the past April's
end confinement, and, moreover, is conditioned to obey- rn-outmportant lectral side--uld
ing authority figures. fects.
But, calling for an end to such ' activities is im- Related to this is the problem
possible. In most cases limited experimentation is needed of goals and motivation. Asking
before cures can be given general distribution. people to work only for the indirect
solution of I-R, so that 7 months
THUS the ethics of the situation must come before the later we may come to direct votes
scientific considerations. Especially in a case where seems politically risky. To insure
scientific knowledge is primitive such as brain surgery, people turning out for I-R in April
it is advisable to bow to humanity rather than technology. we must relate it to such things
Hopefully, the recent decision will servie as the first step as rent ands mpledefina e , short
in that direction, range political program over a per-

iod of 10 months would be a wel-
:ome change from the meander-
ings of "spontaneous" radical poi-
THERE MAY, however, be com-
plications. The legal ones are most
obvious. Rent control as either a
charter amendment or ordinarie
will have to be carefully drawn.
But main uncertainty is whether
the $5. fine can be a charter amend-
Michigan cities like Ann Arbor
have the power under the Home
Rule Act to set lower penalties for
marijuana than are contained in the
state criminal statute, as long as
they can be related to local con-
cerns of public health, welfare, or
safety of the community. This was
the theory under which the first
local reduction in penalties was
adopted three years ago and per-
haps we may be able to do the
same thing with a charter amend-
Liberal cop-out artists may ques-
tion the "propriety" of cluttering
up a basic document like the Char-
ter. Besides, the line goes, making
popular enactment 'of laws easier
might let right-wingers pass repres-
sive legislation by popular vote.
The latter is the liberal's age-old
elitist fear of the "stupid" elec-

torate. But if the people are trust-
ed to elect a Council, they should
be trusted to enact law.
As to the propriety of dope in
the Charter, the Michigan Supreme
Court has correctly stated that it
will not question the "propriety" of
a charter amendment.
Instead, some Democrats predict-
ably want to "recall Stephenson."
It won't work, it dosn't solve the
problem; and it evades the real
issues. Recalls are incredibly hard
to pull off. And if Stephenson goes,
that still leaves a Republican ma-
jority on Council. What's really at
stake here is not personality 'ut
the right of the people to create
the laws they live by. Now is the
time to assert that right.
Arguments from the "left" also
fall short. They see such action as
mere reformism. But any good
Marxist knows that the struggle for
democratic rights can be a vztal
stage in a revolutionary process.
THE TASK of a real radical is
to be able to "seize the time" by
making those democratic struggles
into object lessons in the contradic-
tions of the system.
Frank Shoichet is a University
law student . and former candi-
date for city council.

Gas shortage a deal
I'VE BEEN trying to tell everybody the gasoline shortage was a
good thing. Now maybe they'll believe me.
This week we got the news that the gasoline shortage in this
area was over. And look what happened!
We immediately got hit with an air pollution "alert."
Officials began broadcasting appeals to motorists to form car
pools, switch to public transportation and otherwise avoid unnecessary
driving to help save the environment.
Which are the same things they were urging us to do last week
to help save gasoline.
THANKS TO increased supplies, we no longer half to walk because
we are out of gas. Now we have to walk because there is too much
This is why I say a gas shortage is a good thing. It's probably
the only way to save the environment.
Public appeals to curb pollution are largely ineffectual. You can't
persuade people to stay off the streets simply because they are
choking of exhaust fumes.
GIVEN A choice between asphyziation and riding the bus, most
commuters will opt for the former. You've got to force them off the
road with a dry tank.
This attitude is not so much a matter of perversity as an out-
cropping of what I call the "Fiddleworth Factor," which is a psychologi-
cal quirk named in honor of Wally Fiddleworth, the Washington repre-
sentative of a large industrial corporation.
A couple of years ago Fiddleworth invited me to lunch. He picked
me up in a chauffeured limousine and we drove approximately two
blocks to a-restaurant. This is a distance some of the more intrepid
lunch parties have braved on foot.
WHENEVER I am being urged to help reduce air pollution by doing
less driving, I know that all the while I am making the sacrifice
Fiddleworth will be somewhere having lunch with the motor running.
That realization puts a distinct chill on my ecological fervor.
WE'LL ALL stay in our autos until we either run out of gas or
run out of oxygen. Whichever comes first.
Dick W'est is a writer for United Press International.


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